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The Cult of Personality: How Personality Tests Are Leading Us to Miseducate Our Children, Mismanage Our Companies, and Misunderstand Ourselves Hardcover – September 14, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
Personality tests are administered to millions of people every year for purposes ranging from career counseling and educational guidance to determining parental fitness in custody battles. But Paul, a former senior editor at Psychology Today, contends that the accuracy of these tests and their diagnostic value have never been convincingly demonstrated; their results are, she says, "often invalid, unreliable, and unfair." This study entertainingly chronicles the often surprising stories behind the creation and promotion of the most popular tests. The Thematic Apperception Test, for example, was developed by the freethinking Harvard psychologist Henry Murray in collaboration with his longtime mistress; its original purpose was to facilitate "deep dives" into the unconscious in search of self-actualization, but today it is used more often by corporations seeking to evaluate job applicants and manipulate consumers. Paul's book is not a closely reasoned assault on the theoretical underpinnings of personality testing (like the critique of IQ testing in books like Stephen Jay Gould's The Mismeasure of Man), but its anecdotal account of how personal quirks, intellectual hubris and institutional biases have shaped the use and misuse of personality tests should lead lay readers to ask hard questions the next time they are invited—or required—to submit to such testing.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Paul, mental health journalist and former senior editor at Psychology Today, notes a cyclical pattern in psychologists' devising personality assessments that are widely acclaimed, later debunked, and eventually superseded by the next new tool. She traces the historical roots of personality testing from phrenology in the 1830s to the Rorschach inkblot to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. The personalities behind the tests are as fascinating as the tests they devise: Kenneth Clark, who used dolls to show the psychological damage of segregation on black children, fought his own battles with racism; the highly driven Isabel Myers, who borrowed from Carl Jung, brought her own obsessions to the task of developing her now famous test. Paul intersperses history with current uses of, and overreliance on, personality tests to determine everything from child custody and competency to stand trial to school admission and job placement. Paul advises healthy skepticism regarding the efficacy of the tests and advocates for strict confidentiality of their results. A highly accessible and engrossing book. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top customer reviews
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However, it would sell its bits better if they are backed up with examples, graph, numbers and better book formatting.
For example, chapter 2 - Rorschach's Dream - would help readers better if some pictures or examples about how some "Inkblots" are interpreted as if it tells something about the patient.
Learning what we don't know about ourselves and others helps us to understand why we do what we do. As we become more self-aware, we can consciously choose how we wish to improve our lives. Personality and competency assessments help us to answer these important questions: Who are we? How do others see us? How do we relate to others?
Anne Murphy Paul's new book tells us that all these personality assessments serve deeply felt needs:
They subdue the blooming, buzzing hive of differences among people.
They allow predictions to be made and advice to be dispensed.
They permit swift judgments about strangers.
They authorize the assignment of individuals, ourselves included, to the comforting confines of a group.
They often justify social arrangements as they are, extending a reassuring sense of stability to some.
And, most important, they offer to explain why---why we are the way we are.
Every assessment publisher and professional should buy and read this book to gain a fresh perspective of what's important regarding self-assessment instruments and their interpretation.